“I still believe I have what it takes, and I am determined to qualify for my fifth Olympic Games,” stated Geraint Thomas.
Geraint Thomas, aged 37, reflects on his motivation to continue cycling as he signs a new two-year contract with his team, Ineos Grenadiers. Despite the team’s struggles, Thomas states that he still finds enjoyment in the sport. In 2018, he claimed victory at the Tour de France and narrowly missed out on winning the Giro d’Italia this year, finishing in second place after leading the race until a difficult time trial on the second to last day.
Thomas is currently strategizing for another major competition and also aiming for a medal in his fifth Olympic appearance in Paris next year. When asked about his goals, he responds with a positive attitude, saying, “Why not? I’m still performing at a high level.”
These are giant ambitions for the amiable cyclist from Cardiff who still relishes the carefree life he embraced at the start of his career, when the partying could be as hard as the riding, and feels renewed pride that he has raced against era‑defining champions from Alberto Contador to Tadej Pogacar.
In 2010, Thomas became a part of Team Sky, which was previously known as Ineos. His success in road cycling aligned with Team Sky’s dominance in the sport. However, Ineos’s current performance is inconsistent compared to their immense financial backing from owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who is willing to invest £1.3bn for a 25% stake in Manchester United. While Jumbo-Visma currently holds the top spot in cycling, Thomas’s determination for a challenging cycling lifestyle remains evident.
Ineos is struggling to regain their momentum, but Thomas remains in top form when it counts. He has achieved podium finishes in four out of his last six grand tour races, so he is confident in his abilities. When asked if he plans to focus on the Giro again next year, Thomas states that it is a possibility. The 2024 Giro course includes two long time trials, a challenging gravel stage, and a tough final week, making it an appealing option for Thomas. Additionally, he mentions the importance of the Olympics and his goal to compete in five consecutive games.
The fact that his family resides in Monaco, where they have been living and where he has been training for many years, is a huge advantage. Thomas explains, “My wife Sara is completely on board with our decision and our four-year-old son Macs is extremely content here.” He adds, “He has made friends and enjoys the wonderful weather and outdoor lifestyle. The most difficult part for me is being away from them. However, when considering the big picture, it’s only two more years and then I will have the rest of my life to spend at home. So we have chosen to continue on this path.”
Thomas is feeling happy on a late afternoon in Monaco and is also enthusiastically discussing his preferred bike routes in his newly published book. “Great Rides According to G” highlights top locations around the globe for biking, including South Africa, New Zealand, Italy, and Spain, while also sharing nostalgic moments from his professional career. However, Thomas will soon put aside the joys of the off-season and focus on the demanding routine of training and maintaining a strict diet.
He needs to lose 7kg from his winter weight of 75kg to reach 68kg, which he is not looking forward to. He admits that physically, this is the most challenging aspect for him. Once he reaches his goal weight, he can give his all for eight months. However, he also acknowledges the importance of taking breaks and not pushing himself too hard. This is just his nature and he typically has one major event per year.
Thomas attempted to continue his strong performance from the Giro in May by striving for a top placement at the Vuelta a España in September. However, it proved to be too much and Thomas has decided to focus on one grand tour next year. During the Giro, he held a lead of 26 seconds after the 19th stage out of 21. He was close to achieving his most impressive victory yet in his remarkable career, but unfortunately, in the 18.6km time trial, he ran out of energy while Primoz Roglic delivered an impressive performance. Ultimately, Thomas lost the race by 14 seconds, but after five months, pride has replaced his initial disappointment.
“Yes, our race strategy was fearless and it paid off. Our team, both on and off the bike, was exceptional. Finishing only fourteen seconds behind after three weeks of racing is an incredible feat.”
In the remainder of the year, Ineos experienced limited success and demonstrated a significant decline from their dominant performance of winning seven out of eight Tour de France races between 2012 and 2019. The last four Tours have been won by Pogacar of UAE Team Emirates and Jonas Vingegaard of Jumbo. Jumbo, which includes Roglic and Vuelta winner Sepp Kuss, has a substantial lead. However, it is unclear why Ineos has not been able to compete with them effectively.
Thomas suggests that no other team has the same level of talent as Pogacar, who would excel regardless of where he is. He believes that UAE is fortunate to have him and that they have not surpassed his own team. There have been changes within Ineos, with the departure of former CEO Fran Miller and team director Rod Ellingworth, as well as health issues for team principal Dave Brailsford and a major crash for Egan Bernal. In addition, the team has undergone a transition with a change in sponsor. However, they are now starting to come out of that phase and have a young team that will take time to reach their full potential.
“However, the achievements of 19-year-old Josh Tarling in the World Time Trial, where he placed third, and his recent victory over Remco Evenepoel at the Euros, show that he has a bright future ahead of him. Despite having a young team, we were able to come close to challenging Jumbo at the Giro this year, with the other teams falling behind by minutes. We are determined to return to the top, having experienced the feeling of success before. While it is difficult not to be winning, we have faith that we can bridge that gap.”
Is Ratcliffe’s desire to become a minority shareholder of Manchester United going to make things more complicated? “I don’t believe so. Jim is passionate about both cycling and football. Manchester United was his childhood team and a big dream of his. While our cycling team receives a significant amount of money, it is not a large sum in the grand scheme of things for Ineos as a company – especially when compared to a football club. Jim has a lot on his plate already, but I think it will be great for him and my family is already asking if they can get tickets to Man U games if Ineos becomes involved.”
Thomas cannot reword.
Vingegaard, Pogacar, and Evenepoel make up the exciting new group of riders. Thomas holds all three in high regard but believes that “Froomy” (former teammate Chris Froome who has won the Tour de France four times) was also exceptional. However, Thomas believes Pogacar is in a league of his own. He considers him the best because of his versatility in both one-day races and grand tours. All three riders are exceptional and Thomas feels honored to race alongside them and compete against them to an extent.
Thomas chuckles wryly, aware that his age is now a disadvantage. “During one of my early professional races, I was competing alongside Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, but I was just a junior back then. But at least back then, I could still enjoy life. It wasn’t as demanding. Later on, I raced against Fabian Cancellara in the Classics, and Contador and [Vincenzo] Nibali in the grand tours. I’ve had the opportunity to compete with some top names.”
Ullrich, Basso, and Contador have all been involved in doping scandals. However, does Thomas have faith that the top riders of today are free from any performance-enhancing substances? According to him, yes. He believes that the reason for his hope during the past was that the guilty parties were eventually caught, suggesting that there was no larger plot at play. He also claims to have followed proper protocols, as did his team. In his opinion, the sport has evolved and improved, with more focus on nutrition and training, and there are now exceptional individuals leading the pack.
The entire group of cyclists is now more serious and dedicated. There are 180 individuals at the beginning of the race who are capable of riding quickly, compared to before when only a few were in it for fun and earning a salary. In the past, there was a significant gap between the top and bottom finishers, but nowadays it is much closer.
Team Sky’s past success has been clouded by the controversy around Richard Freeman. This August the former chief doctor of Team Sky and British Cycling received a four-year ban. Freeman had already been struck off the medical register after a tribunal ruled that he had ordered 30 sachets of testosterone to the National Cycling Centre in 2011 while “knowing or believing” it would help improve the performances of an unnamed cyclist.
“I collaborated with him and he consistently prioritized the well-being of the riders. He was a kind individual,” Thomas states regarding Freeman. “I am not fully aware of all the details, but I have heard rumors about him struggling with suicidal thoughts. That is truly heartbreaking.”
In June 2011, Freeman secured a therapeutic use exemption for Bradley Wiggins to use triamcinolone for therapeutic purposes. Wiggins has denied any involvement in any unethical behavior. Thomas shares, “I cannot understand why anyone would take the risk of being involved in doping with the situation surrounding Brad. However, my interactions with Freeman have always been ethical and transparent.”
Thomas grew accustomed to Team Sky receiving boos, but once they switched sponsors to Ineos in 2019, the negative reactions significantly decreased. He believes the booing was more of a performance or show with Sky, but when they changed to Ineos, the audience didn’t make the connection and it became less of an issue. Thomas also noticed that when their team was not winning, they received more love from the public. However, he has observed that many people now root against the team Jumbo, and he believes it is due to jealousy and their dominant performance.
Thomas looks forward to participating in an Iron Man event after he retires from his current career. However, at the moment, he hopes that he and his team, Ineos, can make some progress against the dominant team, Jumbo. Thomas acknowledges that the newer generation of top cyclists are highly disciplined and focused, which is something he admires but also struggles with. He admits that he has times where he gives 100% effort but also has moments where he completely disconnects from cycling and indulges in food and drinks. The new mentality of constantly thinking about biking is not sustainable for him for a 20-year career, but he is content with continuing for a little while longer.
Quercus has published “G is for Geraint Thomas’ Great Rides”.